Following lurid stories about his personal life and a year of inactivity, Amir Khan has never needed to win a fight as much as Saturday’s welterweight debut against Luis Collazo.
No world titles are on the line against Collazo, but defeat would cast the Briton adrift of the elite in the world’s most competitive and lucrative weight division.
A third defeat in five fights would also end Khan’s hopes of securing a fight with Floyd Mayweather, boxing’s biggest star and money-generator.
Despite his absence from the ring, Khan has remained in the headlines in Britain due to a series of tabloid newspaper allegations that he cheated on his pregnant wife Faryal Makhdoom, which he denies.
“I want to show the world how good Amir Khan is after 12 months out of the ring,” he told AFP from his training base in San Francisco.
“I’ve been very focused on my training. I’m glad I’ve been in America and I’ve not been around all that stuff. I’m focusing on just one thing -â€“ to get the fight done.
“It has been difficult, but it has been good to have time off because I got married and I’ve had the chance to spend more time with the wife around the house.”
The former world light-welterweight champion has also had to contend with the frustration of seeing a fight with Mayweather slip through his fingers.
Khan, 27, instead finds himself in the opposite corner to 33-year-old New Yorker Collazo on the undercard of Mayweather’s WBC and WBA world welterweight titles defence at the MGM Grand Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Mayweather fights Argentine Marcos Maidana, whose stock has risen since Khan out-pointed him four years ago.
Khan’s reputation, meanwhile, has suffered since he lost the IBF and WBA world light-welterweight titles in 2011 after a two-year reign and then had to climb off the canvas to out-point Mexican Julio Diaz a year ago.
Khan, who won a silver medal at the 2004 Olympics, appears to be fuelled by indignation and says that the stories about his private life have not been a distraction.
– ‘I was upset’ –
On the work he has done to tighten up his defence, he added: “I wanted to spend time with my trainer, Virgil Hunter, in San Francisco and improve my style and not make the mistakes I make.
“Half of the time I’ve been hurt is because I was in the wrong place with my feet. For example, when Diaz hit me with the left hook, I wasn’t hurt but off balance.
“I needed to improve on those things without having an opponent in front of me.”
Khan’s exile was self-enforced after he opted to wait for a fight with Mayweather, passing up an opportunity to challenge for the IBF version of the world welterweight title last December.
Khan claimed that he had signed a deal to fight Mayweather, but the world’s pound-for-pound number one boxer instead asked his fans to choose his next opponent via an online poll.
Khan won the internet vote, only for Mayweather to declare that he would fight Maidana in what was another embarrassing blow for the fighter from Bolton in northwest England.
“I was upset when the Mayweather fight didn’t happen,” Khan said. “It was the biggest fight of my career and I was within touching distance of it, so it was upsetting.
“Maybe it was for the best because I could work on my game and move up to welterweight and get used to it. I’m only 27, I’m still young, so I could have the Mayweather fight in the future.”
For now, Khan refuses to contemplate the possibility of securing a payday worth upwards of $6 million (4.3 million euros) against Mayweather should he beat the tattooed Collazo, who lost the WBA world title to Britain’s Ricky Hatton in 2006.
“Collazo just had a good two-round win versus Victor Ortiz and that will give him more confidence,” Khan said.
“It could be a horrible fight because he is a tricky fighter and has a southpaw, awkward style. But I’ve never had any problems with southpaws and used to spar Manny Pacquiao.”